Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said legitimate questions of safety should be given “full weightage” while going in for genetically modified crops and advocated “appropriate regulator control” for it.

Inaugurating the 97th Indian Science Congress here, Singh said the developments in biotechnology have the prospect of substantially improving yields in major crops by increasing resistance to pests and also to moisture stress.

He said the genetically modified BT cotton was “well accepted” and made “a great difference” to production and its extension to food crops should be done following strictly scientific criteria.

“The technology of genetic modification is also being extended to food crops though this raises legitimate questions of safety. These must be given full weightage, with appropriate regulator control based on strictly scientific criteria,” he told the gathering.

He said better weather forecasting is critical for sound agricultural management besides developments in biotechnology that “present us the prospect of greatly improving yields in major crops”.

“Subject to these caveats, we should pursue all possible leads that biotechnology provides that might increase our food security as we go through climate related stress,” he said.

The introduction of GM technology or genetic engineering to food crops has raised concerns among environmentalists, who say their cultivation and consumption might have safety and ecological issues.

The Prime Minister also said that interdependence among different sectors should be taken into consideration while planning for future management, including climate change.

“Every solution to a particular problem has consequences in other areas,” he said giving the example of forest management in India in the recent past.

He said putting the entire emphasis on forests as an economic resource while planning had led to “sub optimal decisions” about choices of tree species and planting practices.

“A single-minded focus on carbon reduction could lead to a similar distortion if forestry choices are based on how good they are in sequestering carbon. Mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions is no doubt an important goal. But it must co-exist on other equally important goals,” he said.